A guest post by urban planner turned librarian Jessica Begley. What can libraries do to help users make the most of their spaces?
“Desire lines” – unofficial footpaths created by human behaviour
Like the Pixies, I believe in Space.
I have been fascinated by how and why people use space, and how subtle design can influence behaviour, for as long as I can remember.
As a teen, I merged this interest in social geography with psychology and came up with a degree in Urban Planning and Design. I was going to change the world. Improve open spaces. Create spaces people felt happy in. The reality I found was far from my planned dream. Rows of brickwork, overshadowing, trellis screens, and complaints all dominated my day. Not even I liked the spaces I was approving. Approving, not designing.
Fast-forward fifteen years. I am still an urban planner, but only in my mind. I have been trained to look at spaces, movement of people, land use, all in a certain way. I can no longer look at a space like an ordinary person. Taking my kids to the shops, the park, the library, I analyse the flow of movement through space. When I see conflicting uses, I see a design-based solution. When I see desire lines – the unplanned paths naturally taken by people in any setting – I read them.
Today we’re joined by Paul Alborough – a witty British rapper who “hosts, performs and teaches hip-hop in more ways than you can imagine” in the guise of steampunk cleverclogs Professor Elemental.
Paul’s been interviewed many times about his music, but as I’ve recently started working in South Auckland, with its strong hip-hop culture, I was especially excited by his former career as a special needs educator, and his ongoing commitment to youth development through hip-hop workshops.
I began our interview by asking about Paul’s time as a teacher.
The truth is that I stumbled into it, having realised that I hated or had been fired from every other day job that I could possibly think of. That, and a natural affinity with children, who always seemed a lot more fun to hang out with than adults, led me to the world of education.
As my regular readers will know, Friday 9th November saw a very special event in Tullamore, New South Wales. Australasian libraries have run a lot of innovative youth activities in recent years – but I think this was the first time that they had gone so far as to summon the living dead in the name of literacy…
A selection of photographs from some of my recent workshops for children and young people in New South Wales.
These school holiday sessions in libraries offered high quality speaking and listening opportunities alongside exciting and unusual hands-on experience, with attendees also producing a range of narrative and non-fiction writing amid the fruit smashing and tower building!
You can see more images from the spooky mining themed workshop “Mysteries Underground” at my Tumblr page.